A music blog

Advent calendar: December 25—A Christmas Record

Various artists
A Christmas Record (1982)
ZE PB-6020

Few Christmas records cover a broader range of feelings or tell better stories than ZE Records on this 1982 anthology. Powered by the energy of punk and new wave and post-disco, the artists of ZE turned their considerable if quirky talents to reclaim the holiday record on their own terms. The wildly various results included “Hey Lord” by Suicide, James White’s “Christmas with Satan,” “Christmas on Riverside Drive” by August Darnell (AKA Kid Creole), and Was (Not Was) telling us about “Christmas Time in the Motor City.”

Almost all the songs were originals, but one of the stand-outs, Christina’s “Things Fall Apart” was an updated version of an earlier song featuring “new improved lyrics.” It’s has a flat, hard, bleak midwinter outlook that matched the holiday nihilism of my younger self. (That nihilism was complete unearned, by the way: no true nihilist would claim to have a favorite xmas song, even a depthlessly depressing one.)

With its largely spoken and well-wrought lyrics, “Things Fall Apart” is a perfect flipside for one of my all-time favorite holiday songs, “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses. With its cinematic details and happy ending, it’s a post-punk It’s a Wonderful Life.

Best of all, however, is Davitt Sigerson’s “It’s a Big Country,” which captures the connections and dislocations of family, travel, and modern holidays better than any song I know.

Merry Christmas!

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